Powering Strong Communities

APPA works to ensure availability of $25 billion rental assistance program

The American Public Power Association is working with the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA) to ensure that a $25 billion rental assistance program authorized under the COVID relief bill signed into law by President Trump in December will be available to help renters pay their rent and utility bills as intended by Congress.

The program will be administered by the states, tribes, and territories and under the new law, funds can be used to help renters pay rent, rental arrears, utilities and home energy costs, and utilities and home energy costs arrears.

NEADA is the primary educational and policy organization for the state directors of LIHEAP, a federal program that provides formula grants to states to help low-income families pay their heating and cooling bills.

Increased funding for LIHEAP has been a top priority for APPA.

NEADA believes that in states where the LIHEAP office falls under the same auspices as the state’s housing agency, the use of program funds for both rent and utility payments will be readily coordinated. For example, there might be a way to use the LIHEAP system to sign up renters for this new program. However, states where the LIHEAP office is housed in an energy or other agency will have a much harder time coordinating.

Likewise, local agencies that jointly operate housing and energy programs will also be able to more easily coordinate.

In either instance, NEADA and APPA are working together to develop guidance to ensure that program funds are available for rent and utility assistance nationwide.

By way of initial guidance, NEADA suggests that local utilities should reach out to their LIHEAP and housing agencies with information on their best estimate of the number of renters in the service territory who are behind on their energy bills.

Local utilities should also offer to provide lists of names of renters who are behind who need help, NEADA said.

And utilities can also offer to help facilitate a process where they inform their customers that funding is available and provide access to applications and point of contact local agencies to sign up for help.

In addition, NEADA said that local utilities could provide funding to local agencies to help pay for extra staff to sign people up or provide supplemental staff.

 President Trump in late December signed into law H.R. 133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the $2.6 trillion end-of-year bill, which includes roughly $900 billion in COVID relief, $328 billion in tax relief, and $1.4 trillion in fiscal year 2021 spending.